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CURSED WITH A THIRST (Part 1)
by Brick Walters, 10/29/99

A special DCR investigation:

DC: This week, Brick Walters brings us a special medical report sure to tug at your heartstrings. To make your blood boil. To peak your interest. It may get your goat if you've got a goat to get.
It's about a child, a family, an HMO and a renegade visionary ... or reckless crackpot, depending on your point of view.
In addition to all that, it's a story of the season ... charming, alarming and provocative. And once you've heard it, it's entirely possible that you may not be the same ever again.
We call it ... "Cursed with a Thirst - My Baby is a Vampire."

(sfx: baby ga ga's)

Brick: Bob and Carmen Callowell realized their baby was a vampire when she took her first meal.

Bob: We were alone in Carmen's hospital room with the baby ... just after getting back from delivery ... and I noticed the teeth when she yawned.

Carmen: Yeah, I saw them too.

Bob: I thought Carmen was sleeping at the time.

Carmen: But I WASN'T sleeping. I fainted.

Bob: Two tiny teeth. Very pointy. I called the nurse and said ... "hey, this baby has fangs."
The nurses shrugged. It wasn't important to them.
They saw it as a case of advanced development and told us about one baby who was born with chest hair.

Carmen: I wasn't soothed by that. I decided not to breast feed.

Bob: And I supported her in that. But what really got our attention was when the baby got her first bottle.

Carmen: Instead of taking the nipple, she slipped around to the side and bit the bottle in the neck. Two tiny punctures, with formula spurting out all over her, me, the bed.

Bob: At first I thought it was cute. I got a picture.

Brick: What Bob and Carmen Callowell also got was the run around, as they began to make the case to Doctors, nurses and hospital administrators that something was wrong. Melissa Lispy is the Chief Administrator of MegaMed, the Callowell's HMO.

Melissa: I admit we didn't respond as quickly as we should have ... but our reaction was understandable, I think. If you're a doctor or a hospital administrator, if someone comes to you and says, "this baby is a vampire," you're going to downplay that and stall those people. That's just human.

Brick: So you thought they were lying?

Melissa: We have our hands full with the serious problems. So ... complaints about babies that are in radio contact with Jupiter or babies that are born wearing bifocals, or babies that are vampires ... we put those on the back burner.

Brick: Meanwhile, the child, which Bob and Carmen named "Riceann," needed the normal amount of care any infant demands, and deserves. Including regular feedings.

Bob: Her instinct was always to go for the neck, go for the neck. She wouldn't take a bottle straight on. It was terribly frustrating.

Carmen: We went through a new plastic bottle at every feeding.
The nurses ... they had no idea what was wrong but they accused me of "not bonding with the baby" because of this weird idea I had about her being a vampire. That just made us madder.

Bob: A day later we took her home and started improvising. We mixed the formula up in a zip lock bag and let her bite it wherever she wanted. Worked great.

Carmen: For a while. She started to lose interest and I tried food coloring in the milk to make it more attractive to her.

Bob: She liked red the best. The brighter the better.

Carmen: But then ... after another week or so ... she lost interest again and wouldn't take formula from the bag no matter what color it was.
She kept going for my neck.

Bob: Luckily it was winter and Carmen could wear heavy sweaters pulled up as high as possible to give her a little cushion ... a protection from the fangs.

Carmen: We acted like everything was OK. Of course we were beside ourselves with fear, but we still went through the motions of a "normal" family.

Brick: (annc) Carmen and Bob played with the baby and took her everywhere they went. And as you can hear in this excerpt from a home video, they even included her in their day to day meal preparation.

Bob: (off mic) (cheerful) All right, Riceann! I'm going to put the ground up ginger in the hot oil! Ready?

Riceann: (goo goo gah gah)

(sfx: hiss and sizzle)

Bob: Wow! Look at that! Fun sound! You're back far enough, aren't you? Yah. You are.

Riceann: (goo goo gah gah)

Bob: OK. Now ... I'm going to add the garlic! Mmmmm. Take a good look, Riceann!

Riceann: (intense crying)

Bob: What? What is it? Poor baby! What's the problem, eh?

Riceann: (crying stops)

Bob: That's better. OK ... let's take the garlic ...

Riceann: (intense crying)

Bob: Hey, hey! What is it? Is it me?

Riceann: (crying stops)

Bob: You didn't get splattered with oil, did you? Hey ... Is it the GARLIC?

Riceann: (intense crying)

Bob: It is! It's the garlic! How about that! You don't like garlic! You ... uh - oh. (calling off) Honey!

Brick: (annc) For Bob, it was another step down a long, winding road that led to an unfortunate, inevitable conclusion.

Bob: All the while we're trying to convince ourselves that this baby is NOT a vampire, you know? Because we don't want to believe it.

Carmen: It would cause all sorts of problems getting into the right pre-school, for example. So there was a lot of denial going on.

Brick: What Bob and Carmen Callowell did next was a tacit admission that they had a terrible and sinister problem. And yet it was a decision they had to make for the health of their child, which was, of course, their paramount concern.

Bob: We put the formula inside a plastic Barney doll and let Riceann bite it's neck to get a drink. We told ourselves it was a funny joke ...

Carmen: And to see it ... you'd laugh. There was Barney all stretched out, and the baby was really latched on to his neck. (tearing up) Slurping.

Bob: (heavy sigh) But it really wasn't funny at all.

(music: bridge fade in)

Brick: In the weeks that followed, Carmen and Bob immersed themselves in vampire lore, calling specialists all over the country and around the world to get more information on what to do. But as we'll find out when our story continues ... what they heard was not encouraging.

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